Who Are You Talking About?

Few things in life are more valuable than influence. Authentic Leaders know that the essence of leadership is not authority, it is influence. If you have to ability to influence another person you have the ability to lead. If you have the ability and willingness to be a positive influence on other people then you have the ability to be an Authentic Leader. 

Professional Selling is all about influence. When a customer calls wanting to buy your product that is not selling, that is taking an order. When you influence a prospect’s opinion about your product or service and change it from neutral or negative to a positive opinion, that is selling. 

The most successful people intentionally work to increase their level of influence in all settings. Whether it’s work, a social setting, or a team setting influence is the currency of success. Business success and personal success both come from possessing influence. 

One of the fastest is to increase your level of influence is to be genuinely curious about other people. Think about this…when you meet new people who are you talking about? Are you talking about the other person or are you talking about yourself? 

Work at developing the skill of making the conversation about others, not about you. You are more attractive to other people when they feel valued in your presence. When they feel valued by you then your level of influence goes up. 

Now here’s something that I need to repeat. Be GENUINELY curious about other people. This is not about manipulating people or fooling them into thinking you care about them. This is about increasing YOUR level of influence by truly caring about THEM. 

Enter into these relationships with the intention of learning from others. Ask questions and listen intently to the answers. Linger on the words of the speaker until you’re certain you understand what was said. 

People who listen intently learn more and that knowledge increases their level of influence. 

Always be relatable. No matter what you’ve accomplished in life never lose your humility. Humility is a critical characteristic of Authentic Leadership and makes you more relatable to the people you lead. Humility makes you more authentic to people and actually increases your level of influence with them. 

Never forget the power of influence. Once you’ve earned a high level of influence never forget the responsibility to ensure the influence you have on others is positive. If your influence helps other people overcome their challenges and succeed then you’ll truly have the kind of influence that makes a difference in the world. 

Leading with Influence

If you had no title of consequence, if you had zero power to punish and reward people – would they still follow you? Would you still get positive results from them? 

The answer to that question is yes if, IF, you are actually a true leader. 

At it’s core leadership is about influence. If you have the ability to influence others then you have the ability to lead. It is not your title or lofty position within an organization that makes you a leader, it’s your level of influence. 

If you’re truly leading people they will commit to you. People don’t commit to companies, they don’t commit to positions and they certainly don’t commit to titles. People commit to other people, period.

If your people are not committed to you then they are not truly following you. They may comply with your requests because you have the power to punish and reward but that simply makes you a boss not a leader. (Just to be clear here I do not use “boss” in a negative sense, I use it just to distinguish the difference between leading and not leading. I have worked for bosses with no leadership ability at all and for bosses who were outstanding leaders.)

The foundations that support influence are perception and visibility. Influence doesn’t happen unless you have improved others’ perception of you and increased your visibility. Once you’ve established the appropriate level of perception, you will have gained a solid reputation and foundation of respect. After you’ve increased your visibility, you’ll become known and valued in your organization. Influence now becomes possible.

So, how do you improve other people’s perception of you while increasing your visibility? Here are four ideas…

Intentionally plan your day. Most people sadly just let their day happen to them. People of influence happen to their day. They focus on the outcome they need from their day and not all the small events that may happen to them during it. They leverage the events that get them closer to their desired outcome while minimizing the impact of the events that don’t. 

Choose to help. My better days are the days I help others be better. My best days are the days when almost no one knows I did it. If you have to tell people that you’re helping others you’re still missing the influence mark; help enough people and you won’t have to tell anyone because lots of people will notice the difference that you make.

Accept responsibility for the outcome. Don’t blame others for your mistakes. You will never learn from a mistake that you won’t admit and when you don’t accept responsibility for your mistakes you at least inadvertently shift the blame to someone else; that does not improve other people’s perception of you. Mistakes happen, they are a part, an important part, of growing. I wouldn’t recommend highlighting your mistakes but don’t try to hide them either.

Recognize others….for their success and yours. People crave recognition! Even people who say that don’t need any recognition literally crave it. It’s a basic human need. So fill that need for others, praise them early and often. Be intentional about looking for good things other people do and be lavish in your recognition. Also remember that it’s very likely that others contributed to your success, don’t forget to share your success with them through public recognition. No one, I mean no one, succeeds completely on their own. So don’t behave as though you did.

Influence is built, little by little, day after day. If you want to earn the commitment of your people then commit to build your influence every single day.

Are You Truly a Leader?

John Maxwell’s one word definition of leadership is this: Influence

I agree, sort of. Only sort of because what you do doesn’t make you a leader, why you do it does.

Dictionaries define influence as the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.

Everyone has at least a little influence. We all have some effect the behavior of those around us, just as they have some effect on ours. We have that effect whether we intend to or not. So does that mean everyone is a leader whether they intend to be or not? I would say no.

That means we probably cannot define leadership with just one word. We need two.

Intentional influence. Okay, maybe we need three words…. Intentional directed influence.

Wandering around influencing others does not make you a leader. Being keenly aware of your influence and using it to intentionally change behavior and build character makes you a leader.

Now, for those of you who do not currently have a fancy title or top position and believe you need one to be a leader let me say this:

You don’t.

People don’t follow titles or positions. They follow people and the people they choose to follow are the ones who they believe care about them enough to help them succeed.

Now, for those of you who do have a title or position and believe that makes you a leader let me say this:

It doesn’t.

If your influence comes only from your title or position then you may be a manager, you may be a boss, but you’re almost certainly not a leader. Your title may give you a little higher level of influence temporarily but consider this…

If you lost your title, lost your position, lost your authority to reward and discipline, would you get the same results from the people around you? Would your influence level remain high? Would people still follow you?

Those are huge questions. To answer yes you need an amazing amount of confidence in your leadership ability. I hope you were able to answer yes. Be aware however, the brights lights of important sounding titles and lofty positions can blind even the most well intentioned person to their shortcomings. So if you answered yes I also hope your people would agree with you. If you AND your people agree then there can be no doubt; you are truly a leader.

Influencing others is a part of life, intentionally influencing others is the essence of leadership. Don’t squander your chance at leadership by just letting influence happen. Be intentional with how you influence, influence to build, influence to build people and organizations. Develop positive influence.

When your influence is positive your leadership can outlast you. That’s great leadership!